Forward Tilt vs Fret Leveling

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Relsom, Nov 22, 2017.

  1. Relsom


    Nov 23, 2013
    The Old Dominion
    Hi all, I've got a new bass that while it generally plays great and the action is certainly playable, If I try to lower the saddles to achieve lower action, the upper frets will choke out. 14th and up in that range. The saddles are adjusted fairly high off the deck. Relief is nearly flat.
    I took it to my trusted setup guy to be evaluated and he came up with nothing as to high frets or bad fretboard. His conclusion, as was my thought, was that it may need to have a degree or 2 of forward tilt added, rather than file the frets to compensate.
    This sort of rang a bell in my head that I read RICs can have relief set flat due to a built in forward tilt.
    I'm not really diggin the idea of shimming but it seems like a better option than removing fret material.
    I was wondering though....what if all it needs is to have the neck loosened and then retightened, back screws first and front screws second and maybe not as tight to allow just enough of a change. Sound worth a try?
  2. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    You think having loose neck screws seems like a better idea than using a shim?
  3. Relsom


    Nov 23, 2013
    The Old Dominion
    I didn't mean it quite like that.. guess I didnt complete my thought. Just wondering if tightentng the rears before the fronts might possibly make enough of a difference to not have to shim. I'd never leave them loose.
  4. guitarrophobe


    Mar 20, 2017
    I beg to differ: Shimming can do nothing that lowering the saddles can't. So it is only necessary if the saddles already are as low as they can get.

    If you have buzz on the high frets but not on the lower ones than I suggest to further tighten the truss rod (if possible).
    lowplaces and SteveCS like this.
  5. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    I agree with guitarrophobe, a shim will not do anything to help. If you add a shim, it will raise the action. Then you will lower the saddles to get the action back and you will have the same effective geometry as you had before you put the shim in. Zero sum gain.
    lowplaces likes this.
  6. lowplaces

    lowplaces Got Punch ?

    Dec 20, 2015
    Louisville Kentucky
    Doubt it will fix the issue but it's worth doing on a bolt neck instrument.

    Tune the bass to pitch and make sure the neck bolts are tight. Loosen each bolt just a tad. Then read tighten the bolts. This will ensure your neck is set at string tension.
  7. Relsom


    Nov 23, 2013
    The Old Dominion
    I'm pondering these replies and considering the options. In all honesty, the bass plays fine just like it is. I guess I've gotten so use to instruments that have their saddles nearly bottomed out that it seems weird to have so much more downward travel available.
    After looking it over and playing it again, I'm just going to play it for a while before monkeying with it any more. I had taken a little relief out and the action is pretty darn good. I may take more drastic measures down the road.
  8. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    You really have been describing two different problems, which have different causes and solutions.

    The first is the saddles being too high. Did it come like this from the factory, or has this bass been modified? That sounds like a mismatch of components; neck, body, and bridge. Something isn't "right". This is normally fixed by trimming some thickness off the heel, or routing some extra depth in the neck pocket. Or, you can put a spacer plate under the bridge to raise it up. Yeah, you could put in a reverse neck shim at the front of the pocket, to tilt the neck forward. But most of us would consider that to be a crude patch, not a real fix.

    The other problem is the frets choking out when the action is lowered. That's a problem with the neck itself; the overall curvature and the levelness of the frets. The lower you go with the action, the more precisely the frets need to be leveled, and the more carefully the relief needs to be set. If it's choking out with the action where you want it, then it's not good enough yet. It has a slight high spot or a ski jump or something. That has to be trued up before you can get the action lower. And that has nothing to do with the bridge, or shimming the neck.

    Fix the two problems separately.
    Jamie_Funk and Turnaround like this.

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